Derek and I headed down to the river today after a snowstorm to test out our Surly Long Haul Truckers in wintry weather. With a nice mixture of snow, ice, and a thick layer of mush, the ride turned out to be just what we were looking for. Some things we learned from the ride:
- SKS Fenders, or fenders in general, really make for a cleaner ride. Derek doesn’t have fenders and was covered with mud after about 2 minutes on the bike. I was perfectly clean, although my front Ortlieb panniers were covered in mud.
- Adding some extra inflation to your tires increases speeds while under heavy load. I was rolling pretty heavy on the ride and my speed was down about 2km per hour. I stopped and pumped up my tires with my Topeak Road Morph up to near max capacity. I was rolling with the wind and got an extra 4km per hour out of my bike.
- A simple 3-layer clothing system seems to keep us warm. I’m wearing a pair of synthetic moisture-wicking long underwear (tops and bottoms), a think wool jacket on top, and a Gore Wind-stopper Jacket on top of that. For my legs, I’ve got the long underwear, a regular pair of boxer shorts, and wind-protective pants. Add some wool socks, a pair of cycling gloves, and waterproof shoe covers, and that’s it. We were riding in light rain, 34 degree weather, and a 20mph wind. No problems. I really think the addition of the Wind-stopper jacket has solved my problems.
- The Surly Long Haul Truckers are holding up nicely. I have over 900km on my bike while Derek is still breaking his in. I have had no problems thus far with any part of the bike. So far, all of my racks, panniers, and water cages are holding up just fine.
I was searching around for some new touring bike models, looking for upgraded 2009 bicycles, and generally anything else I could get my hands on, and I stumbled across the Bianchi Valle. Bianchi also offers their ‘specialized’ touring bike the Volpe, a pretty nice touring bike with good features and a mid-range price tag. But when I looked through the specs for the two bikes, I found the Valle to be a decent option for shorter-range tours. It offers the same frame as the Volpe, CroMo steel frame and fork, and also has braze-ons to mount fenders and racks. Actually, the Valle comes with front and rear fenders. Another interesting difference between the two bikes is the Valle’s power-generating front dynamo hub. Both bikes have 32 spoke rims which aren’t going to be too reliable with extremely heavy loads, which is why this bike is a decent possibility for shorter tours or commuters.
I don’t like the flat handlebars on the Valle, the drop bars on the Volpe are much more my style. I prefer the drop bars with the bar-end shifters. The short chainstay length of 425mm might cause a bit of a problem when loading racks and panniers on the rear of the bike, if you’ve had any experience with doing that on this bike let us know. I know the Surly Nice Rack offers enough clearance for this frame size with a properly adjusted rear Ortlieb pannier, I checked the pannier/rack combo on a lot of different bikes before I bought my racks.
I think this bike is worth checking out if you are in the market for a commuter or a short haul bike. It’s another bike to add to your comparison list before making the big purchase.
Don’t forget to visit http://www.theultimatetrek.com to learn more about the upcoming Long Haul for Hunger Bicycling Trek. Over 8,500 miles across 2 continents. We’re recruiting riders and would love to have you join for all or part of the ride.